- Find the perfect balance between preparation and flexibility.
- Knowing names can help you build healthy relationships.
- Know where you are going, both with the school’s floor plan and curriculum.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously and learn from your mistakes as soon as possible.
Welcome to your first day as an English teacher abroad! While your first day is mainly about settling into your new place of work, it is also imperative that you make a good first impression with the people around you (as it is with many other spheres of life). The importance of getting along with your coworkers is no exception when it comes to teaching abroad. Throw in a classful of new students’ faces – and even the most experienced teachers can feel the first-day jitters!
Starting things off on the right foot will allow you to focus on making the most of your new teaching adventure by settling into your new surroundings quicker and establishing solid trust with your new colleagues. Some of these colleagues may play a very important role in your success during your time at your school/centre. For example, you should do your best to make a great impression with your teaching assistant (commonly known as a TA) if you have one, as this is someone you will deal with for daily classroom and academic tasks. These tasks include documenting student grades, assisting with classroom management techniques, taking kindergarteners to the bathroom, etc. Showing your TA that you are reliable from the get-go will increase your chances of receiving the same efficient support in the classroom.
It is expected that you will be surrounded by and introduced to many new faces and names on your first day at your new place of work. Your adventure would have just kicked off and everything may seem to be moving quickly! But never fear, as Dux has prepared 5 helpful tips to ensure you don’t get lost in all the craziness of your first day:
1. Be Prepared
This goes without saying – you should have a plan regarding what you are going to do in the classroom to ensure your first impression is a positive one. This is especially true on your first day as this is when your students will form their initial ideas about you and how much they think they can get away with, which all impacts their receptiveness to you as an educator. Regardless of your teaching experience abroad or in your hometown, you will now be in a unique environment altogether which will likely take a lesson or two to get used to.
Another note here is that while you should be as prepared as possible, remember to keep things flexible as different students and classes all flow differently from one another. You must try and remember to refer back to the lessons sections in your teaching qualification, as it might have presented strategies that you can implement when things get challenging.
Tip: Keep a file of fun and educational activities that do not require a lot of prep time – that way, you are always prepared if a lesson ends early but still have the flexibility to choose an activity that is best suited to your student’s mood or energy!
2. Remember Names
Although this may seem overly simple, it works like magic in the workplace; not only with your students but with your colleagues too. Many new teachers are flustered on their first day and don’t make an effort to remember their colleagues’ names or struggle with the pronunciations (of non-western names) and simply give up before they have even tried.
Try using the names of your colleagues as much as possible when communicating and see the difference in reactions you get! If you are not too sure about the best ways to do that, check out this old but gold article on 6 easy ways to remember someone’s name. This will help you form healthy and professional relationships from day one.
3. Take Note of the Floor Plan
As you will be navigating your way through unknown territory, do your best to map out exactly where your classrooms are and where all important school facilities are located e.g. photocopier, game materials, bathrooms, emergency exits, etc. Many schools will have an easy-to-remember setup and it will not take you long at all to map out your timetable’s ‘route’.
Other schools have multiple floors with different setups in each classroom which will be difficult to navigate should you have quick transition times in-between your classes. Regardless of how your school is set up, you’ll memorise where to go in no time – just make it easier for yourself on your first day.
Tip: Take some time to go on a self-guided tour of the school before your first day of classes, allowing yourself to develop a sense of direction without the added pressure. Sometimes we need to get lost so we can learn where we are going!
4. Skim Over Curriculum/s
We’ve all been there – your first day teaching abroad at your new school can be crazy and odds are that you will end up exhausted from being on your feet all day! However, we suggest that you should not end the day without reviewing the provided curriculums from your school.
We suggest that you should try and have at least a skimmed glance at what you are expected to achieve within your first few lessons and if you can look through the full semester or course – even better! This will also help you pick up where your students have left off with their last teacher.
Tip: Are you feeling low on energy? Don’t forget to hydrate with cool water and take a moment to catch your breath in the fresh air. If you have 3 – 5 minutes to spare, pop in your headphones and listen to your favourite song or centre yourself with a guided meditation.
5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Yes, schooling is important. Yes, you have professional responsibilities to uphold as a teacher. Yes, moulding young minds is an impactful career. However, cut yourself some slack on your first day and give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn as you go. The wilder the initial storm – the clearer the rainbow thereafter!
That being said, try to learn from your mistakes as quickly as possible, correct them on the spot, and consciously prevent yourself from repeating them. This ensures that you do not fall behind, which can be a slippery slope in a fast-paced environment such as a school!
Tip: Take notes on your first day, jotting down your successes as well as the solutions to your mistakes. That way, you can go through them whenever you need (like the end of the first day and the start of the second) to help you progress.